Bald Eagle Eggs about Ready to Hatch

At 5:34 a.m. on Jan. 8, Jackie the Bald Eagle laid her first egg in a nest built approximately 120 feet up in a Jeffery pine, overlooking Big Bear Lake. Another egg followed shortly thereafter on Jan. 11. Since that time, Jackie and her mate - a bald eagle called Shadow - have taken turns sitting on their eggs to keep them warm. One eagle sits on the egg while the other eagle goes off to fish. The incubation period for a bald eagle egg is approximately 35 days, which means that mountain residents tuned in to the Friends of Big Bear Valley live streaming Eagle Cam hosted on YouTube are hopefully due for a treat on Valentine’s Day when the fluffy white baby chicks are expected to hatch.

According to the Friends of Big Bear Valley’s website, historically, bald eagles only wintered in Big Bear Valley to find sources of food (waterfowl and fish) not available in the frozen lakes further north. Recently, however, (Jackie and Shadow) took up year-round residence. In 2012 the “first in recorded history” bald eagle chick was hatched in Big Bear Valley. She was successfully raised to fledge.

The U.S. Forest Service has been keeping track of bald eagles in the San Bernardino National Forest up until very recently once it was determined that the birds have established a strong and stable population. After 40 years of the Forest Service conducting monthly bald eagle counts during the winter at three sites in the San Bernardino National Forest, annual counts on the forest have shown the wintering population of wild bald eagles remains level 12 years after the species was delisted under the Endangered Species Act in 2007. The Forest Service states that the number of wintering bald eagles in the mountains fluctuates, with the highest counts often reaching 12 to 15.

“While it was a difficult decision to end this long-running program, the census is no longer needed from a scientific standpoint,” said Mountaintop District Ranger Marc Stamer. “We are excited to shift our focus and work with our partners to provide opportunities for the public to continue experiencing the thrill of seeing bald eagles in the forest.”

In that sense, Jackie and Shadow can be viewed as a success story by conservationists. The pair even halted development on the north shore of Big Bear Lake which would’ve seen 50 luxury house sites with new roads, a private marina and a parking area a half-mile from their nest. When the matter of the development was brought before the County Board of Supervisors, the government ruled in favor of stopping the bulldozers to protect the birds. 

Last year, Jackie and Shadow hatched two eggs. After a naming contest was kicked off to spread the word about the birds and help raise awareness about wildlife conservation efforts in the San Bernardino Mountains the chicks were named “Cookie” and “Simba” . Three kindergarten classes at Heritage Computer Science Academy, part of the Garden Grove Unified School District, located in Santa Ana, came up with the name “Cookie” after watching the live Bald Eagle Cam every day in class. The name “Simba” was devised by 9-year-old Samuel Brown, a third grader at Valle Vista Elementary School in Rancho Cucamonga. Sadly, Cookie died in a winter storm when his feathers got wet and stuck with snow after a heavy winter storm last February. Simba grew to adulthood and went on to leave the nest. The rules for the contest last year allowed the entry of one name for $10, two names for $15, five names for $30 or ten names for $50--all fees collected went in support of the Friends of Big Bear Valley live streaming Eagle Cam. Multiple submissions of the same name were allowed so that contestants could bolster their chances of the name they chose ending up in the top 25. The final names were voted on and decided by Big Bear Valley third graders. Once the baby eagles hatch, stay tuned for news of a new contest and you might be lucky enough to win the naming rights to one of the mountain’s most majestic residents.